Scientist, philosopher, feminist, author, environmentalist, and activist, Dr. Vandana Shiva is a one-woman movement for peace, sustainability and social justice.
Vandana Shiva was born in 1952 in Uttarakhand, India . Her father was a conservator of forests, and her mother was a farmer with a deep love for nature. Her parents were staunch supporters of Mahatma Gandhi, and Gandhi remains a profound influence on her thought. Echoing Gandhi, she says, “I have tried to be the change I want to see.”
After receiving her schooling in India and training as a gymnast, Vandana Shiva earned a B.S. in Physics, an M.A. in the philosophy of science at the University of Guelph, and a PhD in nuclear physics at the University of Western Ontario. As a graduate student, however, she found herself troubled by the realization that science had “a dark side,” and that she didn't know enough about the actual workings of society. India, she noted, had the third biggest scientific community in the world, but remained among the poorest of countries. Science and technology is supposed to create growth, remove poverty, but that was not happening in India.
Her quest for answers led her to study science policy at the Indian Institute of Science and the Indian Institute of Management in Bangalore where she explored interdisciplinary research in science, technology and environmental policy. She emerged as an authority in the field of environmental impact, and became deeply alarmed by the threat to biodiversity posed by biotechnology. Hearing the leaders of world agri-business describe their plan to control the world's supply of food and pharmaceuticals through the use of patented, genetically-engineered seeds, she founded the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, dedicated to opposing such ventures.
In 1991, Dr. Shiva founded Navdanya, a national movement to protect the diversity and integrity of living resources, especially native seeds, and to oppose what she calls the colonization of life itself under the intellectual property and patent laws of the World Trade Organization agreement. Those laws, she says, have “only a negative function: to prevent others from doing their own thing; to prevent people from having food; to prevent people from having medicine; to prevent countries from having technological capacity.” She describes these laws as a “tool for creating underdevelopment.”